The most recent issue of Dive Training Magazine features an awesome cover shot by our friend, Michele Hall. The image was taken during one of our Tiger Beach diving expeditions in the peak fall/winter season.
Dive Training has a very unique cover photo image style. If you haven’t seen it before, it’s pretty neat. Every one of their cover photos has a reverse image on the inside of the front cover. Take a look at this issues:
The Sugar Wreck, off the West End of Grand Bahama Island, was an old sailing ship that sank while carrying sugar from the Caribbean. It’s an all-time favorite of many divers because of its abundant fish life. Congregations of snappers, grunts, wrasse, gobies, angelfish and parrotfish are everywhere on the wreck. The remains of the ship that grounded many years ago, the Sugar Wreck is only 20 feet deep.
The wreck is in the vicinity of Tiger Beach and may be added on to our standard itinerary if divers are interested. Because of it’s proximity to classic Tiger Beach, it’s possible to see reef, lemon, nurse, and tiger sharks lingering around the wreckage.
We are often asked if we offer tiger beach day trips. The answer is yes. In fact, all we offer are shark diving day trips. In Grand Bahama, we head out each morning for our tiger beach day trips and return to our host resort and marina each evening.
When do you run Tiger Beach day trips?
We are located on the West End of Grand Bahama Island for our tiger beach day trips between the fall and spring months. During that time frame, we enjoy some of the best shark diving this planet has to offer. In addition to some of the regular tiger sharks, we also find some of the fan favorite super stars like Emma and Hook!
What are Tiger Beach day trips like?
A typical day trip to tiger beach involves an early start to grab a bite to eat before boarding the boat for the ride out to the shark grounds. MV Thresher is fully equipped for comfort and safety to enjoy the whole day out on the water. In addition to all the seating space on the dive deck and up on the flybridge, there’s also a fully enclosed cabin to get out of the elements on some of those not so inviting winter mornings. Both the flybridge and inside cabin have stereo systems with bluetooth connectivity to enjoy your favorite playlist.
Once we get up to tiger beach, we’ll scan the area and pick our anchor spot. As the chum makes it’s way into the water, divers can get their gear setup finalized and prep cameras while we wait for the sharks to show up. Reef sharks are usually the first ones to the boat, with lemon sharks following closely behind. Once the tiger sharks show up, we’ll gear up and head into the water. Technically speaking, our dives are not difficult at all. Our average dive depth is between 20 – 30 feet (6 – 10 meters) so dive times are generally over 60 minutes.
Divers also usually arranged in a line on the bottom and remain stationary throughout the dive. We’re heavily waited to make it easier to stay put on the bottom and hold your position in the variable surface surge and current that is well known at Tiger Beach. After the last dive has ended, we’ll pull the chum and anchor and make our way back to the resort.
Our host accommodations are fully appointed with all the comforts you could need. Take a shower, grab a bite to eat, enjoy the hot tub or pool, or jump online and post your favorite photos from the day diving with tiger sharks.
How many days should you dive tiger beach?
We recommend no less than three days planned to be at tiger beach. Unfortunately, the winter season is known for occasional squalls of heavy winds and high sea, preventing us from making it out for diving at tiger beach. It is located far offshore and completely unprotected from any significant winds. We offer standard packages with either 3 or 5 days of diving planned. We know it can be really disappointing to lose a day of diving and we strongly recommend travels secure some form of travel insurance specific to diving, such as the kind offered by DAN or DiveAssure.
What can we expect to see in a day trip to tiger beach?
Sharks, lots of sharks! We are fortunate to have had a 100% success rate finding the tiger sharks on our day trips to tiger beach. We also always see reef sharks and lemon sharks and occasionally nurse sharks. More recently, we’ve been encountering a whole lot more bull sharks and great hammerhead sharks than usual. We’re hoping that carries forward during future tiger beach shark diving seasons. We also love spending some time at the reefs in the tiger beach area. They are really lush, beautiful, and loaded with sharks. The reefs are much deeper than the classic tiger beach spots, averaging around 50 feet or so.
How do I arrange day trips to tiger beach?
Having such a short season, we generally book up well in advance, so it’s best to contact us early. Our calendar is set and boat reserved throughout the season so we don’t have space for your typical open bookings. Contact us for dates and availability.
Make sure you take a look at the tiger shark article in the June 2016 issue of National Geographic magazine. We were excited to work with Brian Skerry and Glenn Hodges over 2 seasons as they worked to construct the article.
We had some amazing Tiger Shark encounters at Tiger Beach as well as some interesting lemon and reef shark interactions. Here’s a sample. Find the full article here: He Went Face-to-Face With Tiger Sharks
This story appears in the June 2016 issue of National Geographic magazine.
We’re terrified of sharks, thanks to their reputation as vicious killers. Shark attacks are rare but appear to be rising: There were a record 98 unprovoked attacks worldwide in 2015, six fatal. Less known are the crucial roles sharks play in ocean ecology. This summer, we’ll look at three species with notorious reputations: tiger sharks, great whites, and oceanic whitetips. We’ll meet scientists who are shedding new light on these enigmatic creatures that are vital to the seas, and not as scary as you might think.
Dr. Hammerschlag’s lab at the University of Miami, Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science just published new findings that suggest the expansion of protected areas into U.S. federal waters would safeguard 100% of core home range areas used by three species of sharks tracked in the northwestern Atlantic Ocean, including tiger sharks, bull sharks, and great hammerhead sharks.
Here’s a great video put together by the talented folks at Waterlust
The Bahamas declared a ban on all commercial shark fishing in its more than 650,000 square kilometers (251,000 square miles) of waters under their federal EEZ recently in 2011. The state of Florida enacted new measures the next year to fully protect four shark species, including tiger and great hammerhead sharks, by prohibiting their harvest and possession in state waters. These new findings have important implications for marine conservation and spatial planning, such as to better evaluate the effectiveness of current, and placement of future MPAs, according to the researchers.
“Our results will help enable policy makers to make more informed decisions when developing conservation plans for these species, particularly when considering a place-based management approach,” said UM Rosenstiel School alumna Fiona Graham, the lead author of the study.
Occasionally, the currents at Tiger Beach Bahamas can get pretty strong. We try to plan our dives when the current is mild, but conditions have been known to change in a matter of minutes. Because the scent trail is moving fast, it can lead to some pretty amazing dives, but there are a few extra special considerations.
Tigers line up in the strong current. Notice he sargasm on the bottom and how quickly the divers bubbles are carried away from them!
We suggest packing on the pounds while diving at Tiger Beach Bahamas. It may be a strange concept for some, but an average of 20 – 30 pounds of lead is typical. Most of our dives are static, meaning that divers are positioned on the bottom and need to stay in place for the dive. When currents pick up, underweighted divers turn into tumbleweeds and can find themselves in some pretty precarious situations. Because the dives are shallow and subject to surface surge and occasional strong currents, there’s really no downside to carrying some extra lead. We know that once divers are done discussing how little air they breathe and how long a tank lasts them, the next thing to brag about is how little weight they wear. Forget that concept for diving Tiger Beach! Nothing will drain you tank faster than fighting against the current to keep your position on the bottom.
As already mentioned, the dives at Tiger Beach Bahamas are generally static and divers should stay put once in position on the bottom. When it’s necessary to move, there’s definitely a right and wrong way to go about it if the currents are moving fast. We suggest dives stand and walk backwards along the bottom. This keeps your eyes focused down current which is where most of the shark action will be. It’s also very difficult to swim against the current in full SCUBA gear, wearing all that extra weight and possibly carrying a camera. This is especially true at the end of the dive, when your tanks are already low. Take a calm, leisurely stroll back to the boat rather than a tiring swim.
There’s two ways to do this: The easy way, and the hard way. Typically, the currents are running from the bow to the stern of the boat, especially when it’s moving fast. We suggest divers walk backwards along the bottom to about the midpoint of the boat. Once in position, make sure the dive ladder is free and begin your ascent from this point. While going up slowly, the current will pull you to the stern and you should meet the ladder as you surface. Nice and smooth! Ascending directly below the ladder, or worse yet, just popping up and trying to swim to the ladder, is a recipe for disaster. By the time you reach the surface, you could be quite a distance away from the boat. If this happens, hopefully you didn’t drain your tank in the struggle and can drop back to the bottom and start over. The boat will be anchored with other divers below and cannot simply unhitch to go pick you up. We always put out drift lines as a backup in strong currents, but divers should be aware of the proper technique for returning back to the boat. Here’s a quick video showing the technique:
From the ubiquitous caribbean reef sharks and nurse sharks to the larger than life tiger sharks, to the ultra rare great hammerhead and oceanic whitetip sharks, the Bahamas has it all. While there are chances to see sharks at each of the islands, some of the highly sought after encounters can be reliably found at certain times of year, at certain locations.
While it’s possible to find tiger sharks off the coast of many Bahamian islands, Tiger Beach off the northern tip of Grand Bahama Island is world famous for these encounters, and for good reason. The dive conditions here are some of the best for shark encounters and hard to beat for photographers. Generally, dives with tiger sharks are done in shallow water, typically around 20-30 feet deep. The ambient light is plentiful and the sharks come close, ideal conditions for underwater photography. The tiger sharks are here year round, but seem to build in numbers over the winter months. Divers can expect to seen anywhere from one to a dozen or more of these magnificent predators surrounded by countless caribbean reef and lemon sharks. And there’s a lot more than just the classic sandy bottom of Tiger Beach. This area of the Little Bahama Bank also offers some incredible reef diving with loads of life like turtles, eels, grouper and stingrays. The reefs are typically a bit deeper, starting off at depths around 40 feet. They offer an array of colorful backgrounds for the “men in the grey suit.” A bit further North, Sugar Wreck is also a favorite of guests. It’s very shallow, around 15 – 20 feet deep, and covering in marine life. It’s a great spot for both diving and snorkeling.
Before the world knew about Bimini’s great hammerheads, encounters with this species was generally rare, brief, and unreliable. That has all changed. Each winter and early spring season brings large numbers of these magnificent sharks right off Bimini’s shores and for the first time, divers can book excursions dedicated to seeing this species. The largest of all the hammerhead sharks, these guys can reach reported lengths of 20 feet. Their huge dorsal fin is reminiscent of an orcas, towering above their bodies. Like tiger beach, the dives here are also shallow, allowing for extended bottom times. Nurse sharks are present on almost every dive and bull sharks tend to make an appearance as well.
The oceanic whitetip is a pelagic species and was once considered the most numerous marine animal over one hundred pound in the worlds oceans. Unfortunately, they have suffered dramatic declines over the past 5 decades and are now quite rare. Cat Island is one of the last hotspots to find this species, and truly the only location to book a trip dedicated to seeing them. During the spring months, female oceanics congregate in the deep water just offshore. Encounters with the oceanics are done as blue water drift dives. Divers can expect to see oceanic whitetip sharks and also have the opportunity to see a variety of other pelagic species, such as silky sharks, dusky sharks, mahi mahi, tuna, and even blue marlin.
The Bahamas takes pride in it’s shark ecotourism and understands the important role sharks play in their ocean environment. Building on the long line ban in 1992, the Bahamas created a shark sanctuary in 2011 protecting sharks against any commercial use in the nearly 250,000 square miles of ocean surrounding the country. Whether your thinking of adding a few shark dives to your logbook, or are an experienced shark diver and/or photographer, the islands of the Bahamas has some of the best big animal encounters around.
Are you considering adding some shark dives to your logbook? Have you always wondered what it would be like to swim alongside the ocean’s top predator? Perhaps you are an experienced shark diving looking for your next encounter. Epic Diving offers some of the best shark diving opportunities in the world, conveniently located in the warm, clear waters of the Bahamas. After a thorough shark diving safety briefing, you’ll enjoy encounters with some of the top species of sharks. Take a look at our packages:
Great Hammerhead Shark Diving – Starting in January of each year, we are located in Bimini, Bahamas for the great hammerhead shark diving season! Here, divers can expect to see several of these majestic sharks alongside a number of nurse sharks, and the occasional bull shark. Dives are done in shallow water, typically around 20 feet deep.
Oceanic Whitetip Shark Diving – In March, we move to Cat Island, one of the family islands located in the central Bahamas. During this time of year, large numbers of Oceanic Whitetip Sharks migrate to the crystal clear blue water off Cat Island and can been seen on every dive! Most of the sharks are females and many of them are pregnant. Most of the diving is done as a drift, so sit back, relax, and enjoy the show. Make sure you look all around since you never know what else may show up while drifting in the blue. We often see mahi mahi, tuna, blue marlin and several other shark species, like blue, dusky, silky, and reef! In between dives, you’ll have the opportunity to snorkel with the sharks for some close up interaction.
Tiger Shark Diving – For the remainder of the year, we are located on the West End of Grand Bahama Island and go out daily for dives at the world famous Tiger Beach. Like the great hammerhead shark dives off Bimini, the typical dive at Tiger Beach is done on shallow water with a sandy bottom. There are also some incredible reefs at Tiger Beach where reef and lemon sharks always accompany the tigers.
Whether you’re an experienced shark diver, photographer, or someone who’d like to see sharks up close for the first time, our dive team will show you a week of incredible adventures with the ocean’s top predators. Contact us today to book your space, pack your dive gear, and get ready for an experience you’ll never forget!
The tiger shark, Galeocerdo cuvier, is a member of the order Carcharhiniformes, characterized by the presence of a nictitating membrane over the eyes, two dorsal fins, an anal fin, and five gill slits. It is the largest member of the family of requiem sharks.
Distinct Tiger Shark Stripes. Image by Daniel Botelho
Known for the stripes that appear on their back, tiger sharks are a relatively large species of shark that live primarily in tropical and subtropical regions around the world. While the stripes do appear distinctly in younger tiger sharks, as the sharks grow and mature, the stripes actually begin to fade and become much less apparent on adults.
Tiger sharks are one of the largest shark species, just behind the more-famous Great White Shark. Born at only 20 – 30 inches long, they have been know to reach lengths of up to 16 feet (5 meters) as adults, with some larger specimens reported. Adult females tend to be larger than adult males. The tiger shark also has very unique teeth, easy to distinguish from any other shark species. Their upper and lower jaws are identical.
Tiger sharks are not afraid swimming closer to coastal lines which make them a perfect species of shark to see, and one of the most popular, if you are looking for any type of Bahamas shark diving adventures.
In addition to being very common among warm coastal waters, another reason that the tiger shark is so popular during Bahamas shark diving expeditions is that the animal is extremely inquisitive and unafraid.
As a result, shark divers won’t have to worry about scaring away a tiger shark as easily as other species, like the great hammerhead, which can present a great opportunity to examine and photograph one of the ocean’s greatest predators. A tiger shark that was tagged in the Bahamas was noted to follow the Gulf Stream as far north as Cape Cod. They tend to remain in deep waters that line reefs, occasionally exploring more shallow water. Tiger sharks have been recorded at depths of 900 meters, or 3,000 feet!
Tiger shark range and distribution. Image by The Emirr
Tiger sharks are excellent scavengers with amazing eyesight, even in comparison with other shark species, and are known to have an extremely keen sense of smell. Those skills make them particularly effective night time predators.
Diving with Tiger Sharks
Most of the tiger sharks you’ll encounter at Tiger Beach are well behaved, slow moving animals. There’s no mistaking their large size and tremendous power, but it’s unusual to get such a display. Divers can expect that the tiger sharks will swim right up to them and must pay close attention at all times. There are often multiple animals and occasionally a dozen or so individuals at the boat. SCUBA diving with these sharks means keeping your head on a swivel and taking notice of where each shark is at all times. It’s easy to get focused on the sharks that are in front of you and forget to notice the ones behind you.